Doing all we can in the last two weeks
08.11.2012 - 08.24.2012 85 °F
Our time in Panama is getting near the end. There is still so much to see, do, enjoy, learn, but shortly we'll be heading back home.
We took off for the jungle/rain forest for a three days/two night stay. What an experience! We arrived at the Cabanas Burbayar just before lunch on the 11th of August. The cabanas can handle 17 guests at a time, as we arrived six guest were leaving and we were going to be the only guests. Our guide, Justo, a Panama University grad with a degree in biology was chomping at the bit to get us into the jungle. After a typical lunch, rice, meat, fruit, juice, and water we headed out. Justo said the trip would only be 2.5 kilometers, he didn't mention six elevation changes in the humid, wet jungle. Four and half hours later we returned, soaked through from sweat, totaly exhausted. A very interesting hike, lots of birds, creepy crawlers, variety of plants and flowers. Lots of photographs.
We collapsed into bed, after a cold water shower and an excellent meal. The dinner was served on a private observation platform that overlooked the rainforest. A very beautiful setting. No one had ever asked to eat on the platform before and the staff was very excited to do something new and different.
The next day we hung around the lodge and the near jungle areas. No more hikes. Lots of hummingbirds near the lodge, along with toucans, squirrel cuckoos, parrots and other jungle birds. This area is suppose to be a "birders" heaven. Two of the women that work at Burbayar made Kryss a custom mola with her business logo. A very unique item.
We had another dinner on the platform overlooking the jungle and headed to our cabana to pack for our departure the next day. During the night it started raining, and then the thunder and the lightning started. The noise and light awakened us at about 1:30am. We sat on our porch, under the cover of the cabana roof and watched the show. Using a lightning timing device we photographed about a dozen great strikes, all off in the distance, lighting up the sky and the jungle. Then it happened...we saw a string of dots light up the sky, then they connected and just about knocked us off our chairs. The hair on my arms and back of the neck stood up, Kryss felt the hair on her neck move, and we both received some kind of temporary blindness in our eyes, the width of the lightning bolt. The strike was less than half a mile away, the attached picture is nothing like any other lightning strike we'd ever seen or photographed. It took about an hour before our eyes were seeing normally again. A totally new experience!
We got back to Panama City, put our feet up for thirty minutes and then prepared for the arrival of my brother John and SIL Jean. We toured them around Panama City; visiting Casco Viejo, the fish market, the canal and other highlights of the area. To see both the Pacific side and the Caribbean side of Panama we went whale watching again in the Pearl Islands and visited Portobello and the San Blas Islands on the Carribbean side. They were able to witness the "diablo rojos", the red devil buses that move people all over Panama. And of course, shopping for Molas, the iconic symbol of the Kuna Indians and Panama.
The trip to the San Blas Islands was a "blast". The Kuna Yala Province has complete autonomy from the government of Panama. The Kuna's run their archipelago themselves. There are no fast food restaurants, no hotel chains, and not many tourists. Additionally, this is considered one of the last pristine island areas of the world. You can either fly in from Panama City or drive from Panama City. Each way has it's own plus and minuses. We drove because all the flights were booked. We stayed at Cabanas Kaunidup, a thirty minute boat ride from Canti town in the Kuna Yala. One of the travel books stated that these cabanas had a five star view with rustic accommodations. They weren't exaggerating. The views were like a postcard or a magazine cover, our cabana had dirt floors, sand every where, shared but private showers and banos. Three meals a day, lunch and dinner always included fresh fish, lobster, or shrimp. Snorkeling was great, lots of conch shells, sand dollars, fish, and cyrstal clear water. Setting aside the Boy Scout camp sleeping arrangements, the views, the food, the tours, and the new friends we met were all good. We'll return to the area, just not quite so "rustic".
Tomorrow we head back to CONUS. Not totally ready, but it is time to go...